Senate duo announces bill protecting 1.56M acres of Arctic refuge

A bipartisan Senate duo introduced legislation on Wednesday that would section off 1.56 million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as wilderness.

Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Mike Roman says 3M on track to deliver 2 billion respirators globally and 1 billion in US by end of year; US, Pfizer agree to 100M doses of COVID-19 vaccine that will be free to Americans Overnight Energy: Supreme Court reinstates fast-track pipeline permit except for Keystone XL | Judge declines to reverse Dakota Access Pipeline shutdown OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Watchdog accuses Commerce of holding up 'Sharpiegate' report | Climate change erases millennia of cooling: study | Senate nixes proposal limiting Energy Department's control on nuclear agency budget MORE (D-Wash.) and Sen. Mark KirkMark Steven KirkLiberal veterans group urges Biden to name Duckworth VP On the Trail: Senate GOP hopefuls tie themselves to Trump Biden campaign releases video to explain 'what really happened in Ukraine' MORE (R-Ill.) bill would protect the Arctic Refuge's coastal plain, which is the last of the original refuge without the wilderness designation.

The legislation would also preserve minimum hunting and traditional uses.

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"The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a national treasure that must be preserved for future generations to experience and enjoy,” Cantwell said in a statement.

"I'm proud to join Senator Kirk on this bipartisan bill to protect one of the last pristine public lands in America. We need to advance forward-looking solutions for America’s energy future, while preserving this treasured public land and the unique ecosystem that depends on it."

Conservation groups applauded both senators.

"Senators Kirk and Cantwell have long been the Arctic Refuge’s defensive champions, protecting it from threats of oil and gas drilling in both chambers of Congress for many years," Cindy Shogan, executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League, said in a statement.

"With today’s introduction of this Wilderness bill, they now assume the role of Arctic Refuge’s offensive champions as well," Shogan said.